BLOOMINGTON — Tyler Weaver sank a 15-foot eagle putt on No. 11 as Mike Cushing watched from the fairway. That cut Cushing's lead to two strokes in Sunday's final round of the Bloomington-Normal Medal Play at Crestwicke Country Club.
Weaver followed by hitting his tee shot on "Hog Alley," the tight par-4 12th, out of bounds. That would have deflated most golfers, but not the 36-year-old Weaver.
"I didn't think it was over at that point," said Weaver, who made a double bogey. "I thought it put me right back where it was before 11. When we were making the turn I realized it could get interesting. I needed to post a good number, make some birdies on the back nine and see what happens."
What happened in the last hour was totally unexpected.
Weaver played the last five holes in 2-under, while defending champion Cushing went 3-over. Weaver's 4-under-par 68 gave him a 54-hole total of 9-under 207 and his first individual Bloomington-Normal Golf Association title by a stroke over Cushing (74).
Logan Stauffer, who started the final round a stroke behind Cushing, finished third after a 74-209.
Weaver fired a 68 in the morning round at Ironwood Golf Course. Still, he trailed Cushing by five strokes heading to the first final round at Crestwicke since 1990.
"I never thought it was impossible, but I thought I was too far back and would have to do something really special today," said Weaver. "I knew Cush is so good I didn't expect him to open a window, but obviously he's human like everyone else."
Cushing, the defending champion, appeared in control sitting in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 14th. But he tried to hit driver for his second shot, pushed it into the trees and punched his approach above the hole where he 3-putted for bogey.
Weaver, in the group ahead of Cushing, had birdied No. 14. Cushing then 3-putted from 20 feet on the 15th, trimming his lead to a stroke, before having to make an 8-footer on No. 16 to save par.
The 230-yard 17th was pivotal. Weaver hit to the middle of the green with a 4-iron and sank a 35-footer to catch Cushing. When Cushing put his tee shot in a bunker and couldn't get up and down for par, Weaver had taken the lead.
Weaver could have sealed the victory after hitting his approach within 8 feet on No. 18. He missed the putt, giving Cushing an opening. Cushing hit a great approach that nearly bounced in the hole before settling 10 feet away. However, he couldn't convert to force sudden death.
"I just didn't get it done and he did, and I give him all the credit in the world," said Cushing, 43. "It will sting for a while. You never know if you'll get anther chance. For 47 holes I played as good as Mike Cushing could play. I'm proud of that part of it."
The last three holes in the morning actually kept Weaver in contact with Cushing.
Weaver chipped in for birdie at Ironwood's par-3 No. 16 before hitting a hybrid 2 feet away for an eagle at the 17th. Meanwhile, Cushing suffered a double bogey at No. 17.
"I was probably 10 back at the time (on No. 16 tee), but didn't know it," said Weaver.
Weaver might have set a tourney record with four eagles, getting one at No. 17 during Saturday's 71 and another earlier Sunday at No. 7 at Ironwood.
Part of Weaver's resurgence this summer came from the guy sitting next to him in the cart at Crestwicke, his 13-year-old son, Jackson.
"He loves golf so much and is getting really good. I take every chance I can to go play with him," said Weaver. "I've gotten so much more golf in, it helps. I've got family and things to do, but I can still do the family thing while playing and practicing golf. It helps a lot."
Weaver twice has been victorious in the Two-Man Best Position, winning with Dylan Schaefer in 2000 and Alan Bardwell in 2016.
Sunday's victory had a different feeling.
"This is so much better. The Two-Man is fun, but I don't really count it. It's not the same," said Weaver. "The Two-Man is like winning a Ryder Cup, a team event. Winning an individual one is like winning the Masters or another major."
Bardwell shot 69 at Ironwood and was two strokes behind Cushing entering the final round. But after playing No. 1 at Crestwicke, Bardwell was forced to withdraw with a back injury.
Stauffer, 25, has been on a run. He finished seventh in the Illinois State Amateur at Bloomington Country Club last month before teaming with Joe Rieger to win the Two-Man Best Position a couple days later.
After firing 67 in the morning at Ironwood, Stauffer dropped back at Crestwicke after bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4. His highlight was sinking a 50-footer for birdie on the final hole.
"I knew there was a lot of golf left (after No. 4) and you had to hang in there and be patient, and I did," he said. "There were some opportunities coming in from 14, but I didn't take advantage of them. Overall it was a great day. It's been fun and we're going to keep it going."